Cardinals hope rested pitchers will help them stay ahead

Thursday, July 18, 2013 | 11:19 p.m. CDT
Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller throws to the plate in a July 3 game against the Los Angeles Angels.

ST. LOUIS  — The St. Louis Cardinals are giving Shelby Miller an extended All-Star break in hopes they can count on the rookie having plenty left for September and beyond.

Everyone in the rotation is getting extra rest, including All-Star Adam Wainwright. No one's gap between starts is anywhere near as long as the 22-year-old Miller, who'll have 13 days before his next scheduled start Tuesday against the Phillies.

Miller is 9-6 with a 2.92 ERA in 104 2/3 innings, third-most on the staff. He got two extra days before making his last start before the break and realizes the strategy is in his best interests.

The Cardinals have the best record in the majors by percentage and are 21 games above .500 with a one-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central.

"If you look at it, it's pretty smart," Miller said. "I don't know innings-wise, but the most I've thrown hasn't been a ton in my career. I'm over 100 (innings) now and I'm trying to get to 180 or so this year not including whatever we do in the postseason, so I think it's just more precautionary and a smart play."

Minus their six All-Stars who got the day off, the Cardinals worked out about 40 minutes in 90-plus degree heat Thursday. Manager Mike Matheny was refreshed after fly-fishing at a resort with no cellphone service near the Colorado-Wyoming line.

"Nicest place I've ever been in my life," Matheny said. "I just put the phone away and did just enjoy the time."

The Cardinals have not set an innings threshold for Miller. He totaled a career-most 153 2/3 innings last year, including 17 late in the season and in the postseason for St. Louis.

"I think we've all been very clear about having Shelby get as much time as he can and trying to be smart with a young player," Matheny said. "He's champing at the bit to get back out there and that's the way it should be."

Miller threw two side sessions during the series at Chicago just before the break and is scheduled to throw again Friday. He's been working on control that'll help him pitch deeper into games after completing six innings just once his last six outings.

"I know the last game it was kind of off and a little wild," Miller said. "You get to work on things. I'm throwing more back to where I need to be."

The Cardinals won't need a fifth starter until next Saturday, and have Joe Kelly penciled in for that one with rookie Carlos Martinez also in the mix. Chris Carpenter might be ready soon, too.

Carpenter, attempting to come back from nerve and back issues, is set to make a second rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Memphis. He worked 2 2/3 innings Monday for Double-A Springfield, tiring in his final inning, and general manager John Mozeliak compared it to a first spring training start.

Any contribution from the 38-year-old Carpenter remains a bonus, leaving him out of equation in discussions for trade deadline pitching needs.

"I think we have to remind ourselves to be patient, because he hasn't thrown in a while," Mozeliak said. "We're certainly not on any time crunch."

Jake Westbrook starts Friday night against the San Diego Padres after an eight-day breather, followed by Lance Lynn and Wainwright, tied for the league lead with 12 wins. Wainwright jumped ahead of Miller to get two starts before the break, and now he'll be pitching on six days rest.

Lynn, an 11-game winner, gets six days rest.

Wainwright (12-5, 2.45) leads the league with four complete games and 146 2/3 innings, is tied for the lead two shutouts and is among the league leaders in ERA and strikeouts.

The Cardinals will recall reliever Fernando Salas from Triple-A Memphis to fill an open roster spot after rookie Keith Butler was optioned to the minors to get more consistent work. Salas has already joined the team.

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